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Mr Anything Goes … Gone !

It’s all over, bar the pouting. At least for now. The man who gave the Tories an eighty-strong majority is now in a minority of one. The only Prime Minister ever to have been found guilty of deliberately lying to parliament. And, as our Political Correspondent Peter Spencer reports, any future comeback will mark a seismic shift in the landscape.

An endearing little cameo in the commons from years ago, when an MP who accused another of mendacity was ordered to take that back or get out.

‘I withdraw the accusation,’ he conceded. ‘Let’s just say the honourable gentleman’s nose is growing.’

Oh how they laughed. The Speaker let it go.

But behind all the silly, shouty bluster, the fuddy-duddy niceties that preclude honourable friends, ladies, and gents from being called liars – had their uses.

They enforced a level of civility, a respectful agreement to disagree, to render redundant the placing of the two front benches two sword lengths apart.

Compare and contrast all that with the black comedy, starring the fallen star Boris Johnson, being played out now.

The seven MPs on the committee checking out the Covid lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street agreed he’d lied through his teeth about them. Again and again.

In response, when he clocked that the game was up, he accused them of delivering the: ‘Final knife-thrust in a protracted political assassination.’

Basically, and with characteristic flamboyance, Johnson was reprising a certain Roman dictator. ‘Et tu, Brute, then fall Caesar.’

The growing consensus, however, is that words of another fallen leader who was miffed at running out of road better sum up both the saga and the man.

‘A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more … A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

But the suggestion that Johnson will have no more to say for himself than Macbeth doesn’t stand up, now that he’s landed a lushly lucrative column in the Daily Mail.

That august publication, along with the Express, has backed him all the way. So he’ll get free rein to huff and puff and do his best to blow Rishi Sunak’s house down.

Those two rags are pretty much alone in breaking the widespread accord that followed publication of the excoriating report on Johnson’s wrongdoing.

A fragment of the evidence given to the Conservative-dominated privileges committee by a junior official says it all.

‘The press office wine time Fridays continued throughout, social distancing was not enforced and mask wearing was not enforced.

‘This was all part of a wider culture of not adhering to any rules. Number Ten was like an island oasis of normality.

‘Operational notes were sent out from the security team to be mindful of the cameras outside the door, not to go out in groups and to social distance, it was all a pantomime.’

Johnson’s attitude throughout chimes with words written about him by his old school housemaster.

‘I think he honestly believes that it is churlish of us not to regard him as an exception, one who should be free of the network of obligation which binds everyone else.’

In short it’s not really about Roald Dahl’s line from Matilda: ‘Sometimes, you have to be a little bit naughty.’ Instead, it’s more this from Cole Porter:

‘In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking. But now, God knows, anything goes.’

Not that Johnson’s dwindling band of backers in parliament give two hoots about that.

They’ve been threatening fellow Tories who might vote in favour of the Boris ban with dire consequences back in their constituencies.

And, because he does still have plenty of support at grassroots level, there’s plenty of harrumphing in the offing.

Bizarrely, however, Johnson himself has dismissed the vote with a flick of his fingers. And his first Daily Mail piece was unexpectedly anodyne.

Does this mean he’s running scared? Or simply regrouping? We’ll find out, when he chooses to enlighten us.

Meantime, the three MPs who’re flouncing out of parliament in solidarity with Johnson will give Sunak awkward moments, when their seats are contested in by-elections.

But he’ll get over it.

In the longer term there’s the relatively vague but plausible possibility of Johnson hooking up with Mr Brexit, Nigel Farage, in time for the next election.

Remember, it was the threat to a Tory majority posed by Farage’s UKIP back in 2015 that spooked David Cameron into promising the referendum in the first place.

And Johnson subsequently levered himself into Number Ten on the strength of his promise to ‘get Brexit done.’

Polls suggest those who now think getting out was a bad move outnumber those who still back the idea by nearly two to one.

But that still leaves a sizeable slice of cannon fodder in any future Johnson campaign. And both he and Farage are great talkers.

A space to watch for the future then.

In immediate terms, by contrast, the Johnson’s a liar report feeds straight into the separate inquiry into the government’s overall Covid-related performance.

As UK recorded one of the world’s highest total number of deaths from the disease, a lot of bereaved relatives and friends are demanding a lot of answers.

They’ve had time to pass through the first phase of grief, denial, and move on to the second, which is anger.

In one sense Sunak had quite a good pandemic, earning the sobriquet Dishi Rishi by setting up the furlough scheme that headed off mass destitution.

But that was when he was at Number Eleven. Now that he’s got the top job he’s also the top target of everyone’s ire.

His top takeaway when he made it to Number Ten was the particularly pertinent adage, given the circumstances: ‘United we stand, divided we fall.’

Given how the Tory party’s remained a fragmented, faction-ridden rabble, he might just as well have said: ‘Tum ti tum ti tum ti tum.’

Meaning the very last thing he needs is a king across the water, or, rather three miles up the road in the Mail newsroom.

But, in swapping green benches for inky fingers, Johnson may be following the lead set last weekend by Belgian TikToker David Baerten.

Feeling a teeny bit unloved by his wider family, he got one of his kids to post on social media how sad it was that he’d died.

Naturally, all the nearest and dearest (or otherwise) turned up, togged up, in black, for the funeral.

But there they were greeted not by a priest but a helicopter, landing right in front of them.

Out popped the not the slightest bit dead Mr Baerten, satisfied they all noticed him now. ‘That’s why I wanted to give them a life lesson,’ he explained later.

Since then, he says plenty of folk, including some who didn’t even make it to the funeral, have got in touch.

‘Proves who really cares about me,’ he maintains. ‘So in a way, I did win.’

And who knows? Shuffling off the Westminster coil might, similarly, wow Johnson’s fans.

Doubtless Sunak would prefer to see the platform’s name spelt a different way.

For TikTok, read tick tock. Too bad, Bozza. You’re out of time …


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